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WHO'S IN FAVOR
With the 2020 election approaching, we wanted to see how the American people felt about such a hot topic - raising the federal minimum wage. We asked respondents whether they were for or against raising the federal minimum wage.
The question of whether to raise the federal minimum wage has long been a hotly contested subject of political and economic debate.
Yet despite growing support from many Americans, little progress has been made. In fact, the federal minimum wage has not been raised since July of 2009 – the longest period America has ever gone without a rate increase since its creation in 1938.
Although some states have enacted their own minimum wage laws above the federal minimum of $7.25, only a handful have taken wages above $10. Moreover, 21 states sit stagnantly at or below the federal rate.
As of 2019, roughly 1.6 million Americans worked for a wage equal to or less than the federal minimum wage – a rate that fails to meet the basic standards of living in even the least expensive states. For two working adults with no children in Mississippi – the state with the lowest living wage – the basic hourly rate needed is $8.65. For a family with one child, that rate rises dramatically to $11.88.
It's apparent that Americans will continue to advocate for – or protest against – raising the federal minimum wage until a decision is reached. But who are the people on each side of the debate? Are there any similarities between those who agree versus those who disagree?
To figure it out, we surveyed over 2,000 Americans, asking them to select YES or NO to raising the minimum wage. If they voted YES, we asked them how much they would like it raised by. If they voted NO, they were asked to provide an explanation.
All survey participants were also asked to report their political affiliation, gender, age, degree, employment status and salary.
- 80% of those surveyed said they support a higher minimum wage.
One-third of those who voted YES thought it should be $15 or higher.
- 93% of Democrats voted YES, while 66% of Republicans voted YES, showing a greater difference in opinion among Republican voters in regard to the minimum wage.
- Ethnicities who showed the most support for raising the minimum wage were Black or African American, Asian or Pacific Islander, and Hispanic or Latinx.
- As annual salary rises, support for raising the minimum wage declines.
This finding coincides with the way national opinion has been heading for some time. As Americans become increasingly aware of poverty's grasp on vulnerable populations, such as people of color or those without a college education, many feel it's high time that fast food workers and grocery store clerks be able to support their families while still paying the utility bill.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic could also have played a part in influencing participants' answers. With tens of millions of Americans suddenly unemployed and looking for a way to make rent, many people are feeling that the current minimum wage essentially isn't enough.
THE INDIVIDUAL VERSUS
While the majority opinion is crystal clear, it's their explanations that provide the most insight into how a simple difference in outlook can yield opposing viewpoints.
While the YES side may be more focused on the individual worker and their ability to succeed, those who made up the opposing side (19.7%) focused more on the well-being of business owners.
In the NO voters' rationales, only some explanations spoke to whether individuals themselves needed more money or not. Instead, most were focused on business owners and the effects on the economy, with many respondents citing that a rise in minimum wage would cause inflation and increase the cost of goods. They also expressed concern that increasing the wage would be too much for small businesses to handle financially, forcing them to resort to layoffs and fewer hires in the future.
The individual versus business debate is very present in current politics, so it's no surprise that there were stark differences in survey answers based on which political affiliation participants identified as.
93% of Democrats voted YES, while 7% voted NO. On the other hand, 66% of Republicans voted YES, while 34% voted NO, showing a clear divide in opinion based on political party – and also a larger divide within the Republican party specifically.
This, of course, could have been expected. Democratic candidates often use raising the minimum wage as part of their political platform, so it's understandable that those affiliated with the party would agree. Libertarians hold a very similar view to Republicans, with 68% voting YES and 32% voting NO. Of participants who identified themselves as No Affiliation, 80% voted YES and 20% voted NO.
GENDER & AGE
The two categories that showed the least difference in opinion across groups were gender and age. The survey results revealed that men and women were split almost equally between each group.
83% of women surveyed voted YES and roughly 79% of men surveyed voted YES. Those who chose to not identify were split 50/50. There was even a near equal split in those who voted YES and wanted $15 or higher minimum wage – 52% were women, 47% were men and 1% chose not to identify.
However, there is a difference among genders when you look at each party independently. For example, 92% of Democratic females voted YES, while only 68% of Republican females voted YES. On the other hand, 96% of Democratic males voted YES and 64% of Republican males voted YES.
As for age, the results were dispersed evenly between people ranging from 18 to 65+. Between 79%-82% of all groups voted YES and between 18%-22% of all groups voted NO.
It may be surprising to see young and older generations so aligned, especially since polling has shown that older generations teeter more towards Republican values. But as illustrated clearly by the data, the cause for raising the minimum wage transcends party lines and generational differences.
All in all, according to the survey, men were almost right alongside women in their support for raising the minimum wage, and people of all generations seem to be aligned, too. Though there isn't a clear way to determine why this parallel exists at this specific time, it could possibly signify a change in opinion due to the economic shift during the pandemic. Or perhaps, this is one topic where people of different genders and ages have more in common than typically perceived.
& OCCUPATIONAL CORRELATIONS
In regard to employment status, the difference in opinion was relatively small but still present. The group with the lowest support for raising the minimum wage was students, with 74% saying YES and 26% saying NO. On the other hand, part-time and unemployed workers showed the most support for raising the minimum wage, with 84% and 83% saying YES, and 16% and 17% saying NO, respectively.
LOOKING CLOSER AT
Another area that revealed a significant divide in opinion was that of ethnicity. Overall, Black and African American participants supported a raise in the minimum wage more than any other ethnicity, with 90% support. The other leading groups were Asian and Pacific Islander participants at 86%, and Hispanic and Latinx participants at 84%.
Participants who described themselves as White, Native American or American Indian, Other or Two or More Races had the lowest percentages of support, with 79%, 79%, 70%, and 76% support, respectively.
It's important to note that a majority of the votes (64%) came from White participants, while a minority of votes came from Native American or American Indians and people who identified as Other or Two or More Races. With a larger sample size, it's likely that these percentages would be higher.
Most people are in favor of raising the minimum wageAcross all demographics, people were generally in favor of raising the minimum wage by some amount, possibly due to shifting attitudes about the current economy.
Many people stayed in line with the general opinions of their political party.Raising the minimum wage is an action widely supported by many Democrats in office and criticized by many Republicans, and a good number of participants stayed within those party lines when voting.
People varying in age, gender and employment status/degree levels all showed similar support despite their socioeconomic differences.While research shows more young people and women sway toward the Democratic party, the survey showed little differentiation in support for raising the minimum wage when it comes to gender or age. There were also well-dispersed answers from all employment statuses and degree levels.
The greatest difference in opinion exists among salaries and ethnicities.Generally, those who earn a lower annual salary showed the most support, and those who earn a higher annual salary showed the least support. In a similar fashion, ethnicities that are typically marginalized in society voiced that they wanted to see the minimum wage increased, while a smaller percentage of White voters approved of an increase.
One thing is certain: For the right choice regarding the minimum wage to be made, the country needs the honest input of Americans all across the board, no matter how they identify or how much money they make. Only then, when all perspectives are accounted for, can valuable change be made possible.
With the 2020 election approaching, we wanted to see how the American people felt about such a hot topic - raising the federal minimum wage. We asked respondents whether they were for or against raising the federal minimum wage. If respondents answered YES, we asked them to provide what they thought that new wage should be. If respondents answered NO, we asked them to provide a reason why. Regardless of their YES or NO answer, all respondents were asked:
- Political Affiliation
- Annual Salary
- Employment Status
- Level of Education
We ran our survey with Survey Monkey, and set the following criteria:
- Ages 18-65+
- Salary range $0-200k+
- All genders
- All ethnicities
- USA only
- All employment levels
- All levels of education